Sunday 22 September 2019

Flawless Feeney gives virtuoso performancE

Julie Feeney is blushing. "I suppose I better address this," she says. Indeed, we've come to expect a lot from the woman who once performed on television wearing a tiny house on her head, but designer Mary Ginnifer's Paper Bird Finale Costume is something else entirely.

A Julie Feeney kind of frock, it's also a lesson in origami, topped off with a swan hairdo courtesy of Eoin Wright. So, basically, the woman is dressed as a bird. And she looks fantastic.

Fashion show or concert? A bit of both. Singer, songwriter, composer, orchestrator – the RTE Concert Orchestra's conductor, David Brophy, is keen to remind us of Feeney's skills as he introduces the petite Galwegian on stage for her first headline performance at the Concert Hall in three years. Pottering about her 'band', she seems shy – maybe even nervous. But she's just warming up.

She had told herself she wouldn't talk. Luckily, Feeney breaks that promise, sharing with us the joys of researching one's family tree before thanking her fans who helped crowd-fund her third album, Clocks.

One of the most interesting musicians in Ireland, Feeney also drops in the fact that she now has her own opera. She's like that.

A prodigious talent, Feeney may present herself as something of a kooky, indie pop starlet, but there's nothing over-the-top or intrusive about what is an elegant and meticulously crafted songbook.


Beguiling matters of the heart (Love is a Tricky Thing, Just a Few Hours) meet Tolstoy (Life's Nudge) as Feeney carries an articulate collection of numbers to the finish line, her sublime vocal holding its own over the orchestra's astonishing backdrop of strings, brass and subtle percussion.

Eventually, she descends upon her audience, whispering and cackling in the aisles (it's part of the song) for the splendid Myth. The sight of Brophy, peeking over his shoulder to see what's going on, is priceless.

It's a testament to Feeney's abilities as a performer – and a pianist – that, even on a stage as populated as this, we never take our eyes off the main attraction. Perhaps it's the big bird frock (her other dress tonight – a short green number – was just as eye-catching).

Maybe it's the lovely interaction (the gorgeous Dear John includes a cracking vocal lesson). Whatever the case, a serious amount of work has gone into this set – and it shows. A memorable display of flawless musicianship, Feeney doesn't always play live with an orchestra. Maybe she should.


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